United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division
OPINION AND ORDER
MCCOY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is Plaintiff Bonnie Olsen's Complaint (Doc. 1)
filed on December 8, 2016. Plaintiff seeks judicial review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denying her claim for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits. The
Commissioner filed the Transcript of the proceedings
(hereinafter referred to as “Tr.” followed by the
appropriate page number), and the parties filed legal
memoranda in support of their positions. For the reasons set
out herein, the decision of the Commissioner is
AFFIRMED in part AND REVERSED AND REMANDED in
part pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Social Security Act Eligibility, the ALJ Decision, and
Standard of Review
defines disability as the inability to do any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result
in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 416(i), 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505, 416.905. The impairment must be
severe, making the claimant unable to do her previous work or
any other substantial gainful activity that exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2),
1382c(a)(3); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505 - 404.1511,
416.905 - 416.911. Plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion
through step four, while the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482
U.S. 137, 146 n.5 (1987).
24, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for disability
insurance benefits. (Tr. at 92, 161-65). Plaintiff asserted
an onset date of July 1, 2012. (Id. at 161). On
January 23, 2016, Plaintiff amended her onset date to January
1, 2013. (Id. at 178-79). Plaintiff's
application was denied initially on October 30, 2013 and on
reconsideration on March 11, 2014. (Id. at 92, 93).
A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) William G. Reamon on February 1, 2016.
(Id. at 39-80). The ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on May 12, 2016. (Id. at 17-27). The ALJ
found Plaintiff not to be under a disability from July 1,
2012, through the date of the decision. (Id. at 27).
October 21, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. (Id. at 1-5). Plaintiff filed a
Complaint (Doc. 1) in the United States District Court on
December 8, 2016. This case is ripe for review. The parties
consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge
for all proceedings. (See Doc. 17).
Summary of the ALJ's Decision
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation process to
determine if a claimant has proven that she is disabled.
Packer v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 542 Fed.Appx.
890, 891 (11th Cir. 2013) (citing Jones v. Apfel,
190 F.3d 1224, 1228 (11th Cir. 1999)). An ALJ must
determine whether the claimant: (1) is performing substantial
gainful activity; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has a
severe impairment that meets or equals an impairment
specifically listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1; (4) can perform her past relevant work; and (5)
can perform other work of the sort found in the national
economy. Phillips v. Barnhart, 357 F.3d 1232,
1237-40 (11th Cir. 2004). The claimant has the burden of
proof through step four and then the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five. Hines-Sharp v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 511 Fed.Appx. 913, 915 n.2 (11th Cir. 2013).
found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements
through December 31, 2017. (Tr. at 19). At step one of the
sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2012,
the alleged onset date. (Id.). At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe
impairments: bilateral knee osteoarthritis; left total knee
replacement; cervical spine spondylosis/degenerative disc
disease/facet mediated pain; and venous insufficiency (20
C.F. R. § 404.1520(c)). (Id.). At step three,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment
or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled
the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1 (20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526). (Id. at 22).
four, the ALJ found the following:
[T]he claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 [C.F.R. §]
404.1567(b) except the claimant is limited to standing/and or
walking up to 4 hours in an 8 hour day; sitting up to 6 hours
in an 8 hour day; no climbing of ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds; no kneeling or crawling; occasional climbing of
ramps and stairs; and occasional balancing, stooping, and
crouching. In addition, the claimant must avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme cold and humidity, and even moderate
exposure to vibration and hazards, such as dangerous moving
machinery and unprotected heights.
(Id. at 23). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
able to perform her past relevant work as a caseworker.
(Id. at 26). The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was
not under a disability from July 1, 2012, through the date of
the decision. (Id. at 27).
Standard of Review
scope of this Court's review is limited to determining
whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standard,
McRoberts v. Bowen, 841 F.2d 1077, 1080 (11th Cir.
1988), and whether the findings are supported by substantial
evidence, Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390
(1971). The Commissioner's findings of fact are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Substantial evidence is more than a
scintilla-i.e., the evidence must do more than
merely create a suspicion of the existence of a fact, and
must include such relevant evidence as a reasonable person
would accept as adequate to ...